AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s new homeless camping restrictions took effect Monday, however police won’t begin enforcing those restrictions until Tuesday.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, Austin City council voted to approve the limited ban in a 7-4 vote.
The new limited ordinance will effectively:
- Ban public camping on sidewalks
- Allow sitting/lying on sidewalks unless the sidewalk is within 15 feet of a door of an operating business during business hours or residence
- Ban sitting/lying/camping around the ARCH. The prohibited area is bordered by East 4th St, Brushy St., E. 11th St., and Brazos St., excluding any areas under I-35.
- Ban camping on land with a high wildfire risk
Monday, Austin Police officers, city workers and nonprofit outreach teams spent the day handing out flyers, notifying people of the changes and giving them phone numbers for resources. They also asked people questions about their circumstances.
The new homelessness ordinance says the city can’t enforce the camping rules unless it’s identified each person camping illegally and has given that person an opportunity to take advantage of housing services.
APD says once officers begin clearing out the area around the ARCH Tuesday, they will strive to work with the homeless on voluntary compliance. However, if people don’t comply, they can be cited or even arrested.
The changes come following months of contentious debate over where Austin’s homeless can sit, lie and camp.
Council members Alter, Pool, Tovo and Kitchen voted against the restrictions, claiming they didn’t go far enough.
Camping bans on street medians, ADA ramps, under overpasses and within 5 feet of creek or river banks were on the table, but ultimately not approved.
Earlier this month, the city announced a new strategy called “The Guided Path”, which works in three phases: Assessment and engagement, service referral, then sustainability and accountability.
Since the initiative began, Integral Care, one of the groups involved, says 81 people have agreed to accept help with shelter.
“At this point, everyone who has expressed an interest to move indoors, we have been able to assist up to this point,” said Integral Care’s Director of Adult Behavior Health Systems, Darilynn Cardona-Beiler.
The outreach team at Integral Care says as of right now, there’s still room for more people in Austin shelters, but identifying them before they’re pushed out of the now-illegal camping sites is key.